Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
St. Patrick and Paterson Catholic are the two top high school teams in New Jersey and two of the Top 10 teams in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.
Basketball fans had looked forward to a possible matchup of the two programs in the New Jersey state tournament.
But with just three days to go before the start of the tournament and St. Patrick’s future in the hands of the courts, we still don’t know if the teams will meet this year.
“I am hoping to play against St. Pat’s,” said Paterson Catholic senior guard Jayon James, who has verbally committed to Fordham. “I want a rematch with them to prove to everyone that we are undefeated for a reason.”
A year ago, the Celtics routed the Cougars, 79-54, in the North Non-Public B final and many expected this year’s meeting to be more competitive.
St. Patrick filed suit and is seeking an injunction to overturn the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s decision to ban the Celtics from the state tournament. The hearing at the federal courthouse in Newark was moved to Monday at 9 a.m. from Friday afternoon because of the snowstorm.
The Celtics were banned from the state tournament Feb. 12 because head coach Kevin Boyle was present during six out-of-season workouts last October.
Now the Celtics, who feature Duke-bound point guard Kyrie Irving and star junior Michael Gilchrist, are hoping Federal District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaughissues an injunction Monday so the Celtics can join the North Non-Public B bracket in time for Tuesday’s games.
“It’s always there in the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it too much,” St. Patrick senior forward Chase Plummer told The Star-Ledger. “I’ve enjoyed my four years with these guys so much I would hate to end my season with a chip on my shoulder, like ‘Oh, man, we’re not in the states.’ I try not to think about it too much, but it’s always lingering.”
St. Patrick (25-3), No. 8 in the USA Today Super 25, will meet Plainfield for the Union County championship on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Kean College. If the judge doesn’t grant an injunction Monday, that will be the Celtics’ last game of the season.
Undefeated Paterson Catholic (23-0), No. 6 in the USA Today poll, will play Paterson Kennedy for the Passaic County championship on Saturday at noon at Wayne Valley.
The Cougars, who feature James, Seton Hall-bound forward Fuquan Edwin and fellow seniors Trevor Clemmings and Jermaine Peart, are seeking to become the first Passaic boys team to three-peat since Kennedy did it from 1998-2000.
As of now, the Cougars are the top seed in North Non-Public B, while St. Anthony is No. 2. Those teams could meet for the sectional title March 11 at Rutgers.
If St. Patrick is reinstated to the tournament, the bracket would have to be redone, with PC remaining as the top seed.
“There was no guarantee we would’ve played [St. Patrick’s],” PC coach Damon Wrighttold the Bergen Record. “But our kids know the St. Patrick’s kids. They crushed us last year, and I just think our kids could have made it a better game this year, and it was probably something that they were looking forward to. But right now, we have our eyes set on the [Passaic] County tournament.”
Without St. Patrick, legendary St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley said PC remains the favorite to win the bracket.
“I would say Paterson Catholic is probably still the favorite,” said Hurley, whose team has won 10 T of C titles. “I haven’t seen them since the beginning of the season. Early on they looked like a very, very good team. I know we’re happy we’ve improved since the beginning of the season. We still have a bunch of games to play. Everything we’re doing is geared toward being ready for the states.”
While the winner of North Non-Public B would likely be the favorite to win the Tournament of Champions, watch out for St. Peter’s Prep, which recently beat national power Oak Hill Academy at the PrimeTime Shootout.
St. Peter’s features St. John’s commit Ronald Roberts and star junior guard Myles Davis and is the No. 3 seed in North Non-Public A, which also includes No. 1 Seton Hall Prep.
“Don’t discount St. Peter’s Prep,” New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told SNY.tv. “They were up by 10 against St. Anthony late in the game back in January on a neutral court. And they have a lot of weapons. They’re probably the favorite to win Non-Public A. They’re goign to have to defeat Seton Hall, but I think St. Peter’s Prep is right there in the mix.”
**Click the Video Player at right for my interviews with Tom Konchalski, where he talks New York and New Jersey high school playoffs and recruiting**
(Photo courtesy Star-Ledger)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.